After May 1940, the good times were few and far between: first there was the war, then the capitulation and then the arrival of the Germans, which is when the trouble started for the Jews. Our freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Jewish decrees.” – Anne Frank –
Germany invaded Holland on May 10th 1940. The invasion, based on blitzkrieg, was swift and devastating. Holland surrendered just six days later as her military had been unable to cope with the speed of blitzkrieg. The Dutch government and the royal family escaped and went into exile in Britain.
Following the defeat, the Netherlands was placed under German occupation, which endured in some areas until the German surrender in May 1945. Active resistance was carried out by a small minority, which grew in the course of the occupation. The occupiers deported the majority of the country’s Jews to Nazi concentration camps, with the cooperation of the Dutch police and civil service. In fact, the Netherlands saw one of the highest levels of collaboration during the Holocaust of any occupied country. As a result about 75% of the country’s Jewish population were killed during the conflict; a much higher percentage than comparable countries, like Belgium and France.
Related to this event is the here displayed German passport for a boy. You could assume a ordinary boy but it’s not. Why? I will tell you a bit later.
First of all is very unusual that this passport was issued to a seven year old child as the German passport regulations at that time defined that children from age fourteen can hold their own passport. Secondly the document was issued by the higher SS-Officer & Police Leader for occupied Netherlands in Den Hag.
Also this part of a handwritten entry at page six tells you a bit more about this boy. He is also included in the “Ministerialpass” (Departmental passport) of his mother. A holder of such a passport type is usually some official of the German government.
So who was this boy which was holding such a passport? Who was his mother which holds a departmental passport?
The answer comes here… The boy is Gustav Schulze-Bernett and the woman is Sophie Schulze-Bernett.
The father & husband Walter Schulze-Bernett isn’t a nobody!
He was the Head Of The Dutch Section Of The Abwehr (German Military Intelligence) lastly in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel stationed in the Netherlands 1938-1941, then from 1941-1943 head of the Middle East in Ankara. He joined the Abwehr in 1935 and was a Top man of Canaris’ Abwehr.
FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?
The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...
2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?
Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...
3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?
"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...
4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?
Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...
5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?
Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.
6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?
7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?
During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...
8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?
Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.
9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?
Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.
10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?
A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉
11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?
First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...
Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.
Question? Contact me...